It was an order. A direct one.
“It—it slipped. I was oiling it and it slipped.”
“When was this?”
For an answer, Sam looked over at the crossbow, now sitting on the table beside the couch, where no doubt Dean had been fondling it in private. “When you got—when you brought—” He sighed and stopped. Knew what was coming next.
“You broke this a week ago and never mentioned it? Never thought to stand up and say anything to me about it? Just skulked around hiding it, like some dumb kid—”
“Be quiet, Dean.” This came out as a bark, and Dean pushed himself back into the cushions.
“Sam, you could have come clean, and what do you think would have happened?”
Sam couldn’t think of a thing to say, though a thousand answers raced through his head. He knew exactly what would have happened, knew exactly what was going to happen now, and then some. Being careless was one thing, lying about it was another.
“I asked you a question. Now answer it.”
Feeling the scowl on his face, a mutinous, downturned thing that made his face ache, Sam let the words come bubbling up. “You’d have given me a whipping if I broke it, or maybe you wouldn’t. Now you’re going to whip me because I broke it and lied about it. So go ahead. See if I care.”
“Watch that tone you’re using with me, Sam,” said Dad.
“You watch it,” said Sam.
With one hand, Dad reached out and grabbed his wrist, and began pulling him into the kitchen.
“Shut up, Dean, he knows the rules as well as you do.”
Sam let himself be dragged, not because he felt he could have broken away, but because he didn’t know what else to do. At least it was over, at least there was that. His stomach churned with relief, his wrist felt raw where Dad had a grip on it, as he was pulled to the kitchen table. Dad took one of the chairs out of the way, and motioned Sam to the table. Then he began taking off his belt, unbuckling the buckle, pulling the leather from the loops of his jeans. Sam watched this, ice in his spine, unable to judge by Dad’s hooded eyes, exactly how hard a beating it was going to be. Usually he could tell, could sense the fairness that the punishment would fit the crime. But his disobedience had been so multi-layered, he couldn’t tell.
“Sam, table. Don’t make me tell you again. And don’t make me make you.”
Dad folded the belt in his hands, tucking the buckle and the end in his fist. And then waited. The air in the room was perfectly still and warm, the smell of damp floating through the window, the smell of Dad’s leather belt cutting through that.
Shaking, Sam bent himself over the kitchen table and buried his head in his arms, blocking out the light, locking himself in with his panting breaths, coming fast now even before the beating had begun. There was no lecture, nor any need for one, he knew what he’d done. So did Dad.
Dad didn’t warm him up, like he used to when Sam was little. No he was a man now, man enough to shoot a gun, take it apart, and put it back together. Man enough to hear the whistle of leather through the air, to hear that only seconds before the pop of the loop of leather as the belt slammed into his backside, leaving behind a hot blossom of heat. Sam’s sneakered feet scooted under the table, he scrambled to keep them straight, but it wasn’t his fault that his legs weren’t long enough to brace him there. He felt Dad’s booted foot, then, moving in place like a racer’s starting block, making sure that Sam’s feet wouldn’t shift forward. Sam didn’t know whether or not to be grateful, part of him was, because he would have made Dad even madder by not being able to keep his place.
The belt whickered through the air, slicing through his thin shorts like they were made of paper. Making Sam arch up from the table, hissing, his eyes watering, Dad pressing down a hard, hot hand in the middle of his back, Sam clenching his fist in his mouth, wanting to lean away, to pull away. Not daring. By the tenth blow, he was crying, forehead pressed against the wooden planks of the table, sucking overly hot air into his lungs.
Then, at the twenty mark, it stopped. His ears rang, his throat was hot as iron in a fire. And Dad behind him, breathing, long, hard breaths being drawn in and hissed out through his nostrils. Sam knew that sound. The beating was over, but not Dad’s anger.
“Get up Sam.”
Sam got up, his knees knocking together, the room oddly white as he gripped the edge of the table and watched Dad put the belt back on, leather through the loops, buckle end clicking as he did it up. He could almost hear Dean’s anxiety on the couch, and thought about that, how Dean wouldn’t have made a sound.
“You will never pull a stunt like that, you understand me?”
Unable to look up, Sam studied his feet. His ankles were coated with dust from the day, there were some spots where he’d smashed bugs with his palm, and somehow, something had cut him. Grass maybe.
“Sam, take that look off your face. Now.”
Sam shook his head.
Sam shook his head again, feeling the quiver all over his body.
“You have just thrown away your rights, Sam. There’ll be no cross bow training for you until you learn to take orders.”
Now Sam looked, fury replaced by cold anger. He felt it freeze up through his frame, and he looked up at Dad, scowling. “I don’t care,” he said. “You think I care? I don’t want training, not even some stupid cross bow. Especially not some stupid cross bow.”
“Come on, Sammy,” said Dean, standing. Propping himself up on the couch. He could reach the cross bow on the table now, touching it with one finger. “Just apologize, it’ll be okay, you’ll get to learn. Right, Dad? If he apologizes?”
Dad gave a little laugh in his throat and moved to the sink, where Sam knew he’d wash his hands and face, like he always did. Spreading water all over the floor like he was in a barn or something. Sam knew what that laugh meant. Apology or no, there would be no crossbow training for Sam for two weeks and that was final.
Without thinking about it, Sam marched over to the table, grabbed the cross bow up with both hands and dashed it to the floor. It wasn’t cocked but the bowstring was tight enough and the bow thin enough that the bow snapped and the string went flying. There was a resounding sharp sound as the butt cracked and the fiberglass shattered. Sticking out his chin, Sam looked at Dean, and then he saw Dad coming for him, marching across the floor like he had the enemy in his sites. Sam turned and sprinted out the door, slamming the screen behind him, pelting down the road and into the night.
Sam ignored the shout as he heard the steps on the porch, the closeness even of Dad’s exhaled breath. A mutter about keys, and Sam kept running, along the curve of the dusty road, now glowing in the starlight, licking like a ribbon through the trees. His elbows and fists pumped at his sides, his breath hard in his lungs. But the air was cool through his hair, and though he knew he couldn’t keep running forever, he could run for a long while, thanks to Dad’s training, the daily runs, the goddamn sit-ups. Every day for the past two weeks. Yeah, Sam could run for hours, it felt like. For a moment, all he heard was his blood in his ears. Then he heard the growl of the Impala’s engine and ran harder.
When he saw the flash of headlights, he fell to the ground, and lowered his eyes. Let the black shape of the car go screaming past, inhaled old leaves, and tried not to panic. Exactly how far his little stunt would take him, he didn’t know. But he was out of there. For now.
Getting up, he pushed the dirt from his knees, and started walking. His walking in the dark took him into town, where the streetlights were all on, and the bars were open. Two bars, one on each side of the street. Sam slunk past, staying in the shadows, saw the Impala turn the corner and head down a side street. Sam picked up his feet and ran through the rest of town, staying off the black top, and headed down the mountain. The trees were shaggy overhead, and the ditch was lined with gravel. It started to hurt his feet, and his calves were aching, so he ran on the road. His thighs felt like rocks, and the welts on his backside felt like they’d opened up, seeping now. Maybe bleeding.
He kept running. Paced himself, stayed to the darkness when a car would come by. It was five miles to the bottom of the mountain, where the valley dipped down, and the road followed the river. Out of breath, he stood at the crossroads, and wondered what time it was. Where he would head next. What he would eat. A thirteen year old could find work, couldn’t he? Picking peaches or delivering papers? That’s what other kids did, kids he met at school.
Then, standing there, standing still, hands on his hips, staring at the single blinking yellow light that marked the entrance to the bigger road, he realized he was thirsty. And it was cooler in the valley, near the water, as his sweat dried, he shivered a bit, and pushed his hair out of his eyes.
Off to the left, tucked into the trees was an old fruit stand. Sam remembered passing it when they’d arrived in Mentone. Maybe there was still some fruit there. Maybe a spigot he could drink out of. He knew better than to drink untreated river water. Going closer, he saw that the fruit stand was not locked up, but as he opened the door, he saw that it was empty of fruit. They must clean up every night to keep animals from tearing the place apart. There wasn’t a spigot either. Just a roof supported by wooden poles, a dirt floor, and large, open bins for the fruit.
Sam tucked himself to the floor and leaned back on one of the poles. The dirt was cool and smooth, and the wooden frame walls cut the bit of wind that there was. He could imagine that the place could smell quite sweet if there was fruit for sale. But for now, it just smelled dry. And still. Sam closed his eyes. It only took a minute before his butt hurt too badly, so he lay on his side and curled around the pole. Cradled his head in his arms and tried not to think.
He would not sleep. He would rest, and then he would get up and start walking. He couldn’t remember what was close, but figured if he walked south, there would be peaches growing there. He could pick those. And eat some.
A buzzing sound woke him, or a crackle in the silence, and as he opened his eyes, he realized that it was not dark. There was someone there, holding a flashlight, and placing on the edge of one of the bins, tilting the lens to the ceiling. For a second, his heart thumped in his chest, that someone bad had found him. Then he felt Dad’s hand on his wrist, shaking him, heard Dad’s voice say his name, and realized that he’d fallen asleep. Had stupidly fallen asleep, and of course Dad had found him. Dad, who could find a sugar cube in a snowstorm. How had Sam imagined that he could run away easily?
“Sam, get up, it’s Dad.”
Anther shake, Dad’s hand was warm, and his voice sounded rough as if he’d been shouting.
Sam rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, sitting up, feeling the press of his weight against his welts, the bottom of his feet like he’d dipped them in tar and set them on fire. Dad’s shadow loomed over him as he crouched down, the arc of light from behind him putting all of his expression into darkness. But he knew Dad was looking at him, knew the expression, could hear the angry breathing. Smell Dad’s sweat.
“Is Dean mad at me?” Sam asked. He put both of his palms into the dirt, fingernails scratching. Restless.
“You broke a valuable piece of equipment, you mouthed off at me, I’ve been searching for you for two hours, and you want to know if your brother is mad at you?”
Sam dipped his head. “Well, I know you are.” It was a dumb thing to say, even before it was fully out, he knew it. Dad stood straight up, taking Sam with him, pulling him fully to his feet, one large hand in his chest pushing him firmly backwards into the pole. The light was now partially in Sam’s eyes, and he raised his hands to block it. Dad turned and moved the light so it was fully on the ceiling, a large circle of white, spots on the lens cover showing up as dirty snowflakes there. Dust motes danced in the beam.
“I am,” said Dad. Sam could see that jaw move as Dad spoke. “I’m at my wits end, Sam. You aren’t getting any of this, and you’re doing it on purpose. You’re resistant to everything, and you don’t seem to care.”
“I don’t,” said Sam. He swallowed hard, felt Dad move closer, the rigid line of the body as it contained an angry shout. Even in the half-darkness he knew this. “I don’t care. I just want to play soccer. Why didn’t you just leave me in Greeley so I could play soccer?”
He could hear Dad grind his teeth, hear the inhale of breath, and feel the anger coming off in waves. “I’m not going to leave you in Greeley,” said Dad, barely gritting this out. “And you’re not going to waste your time on some game, when you should be training. I’m your father, and you will do as I tell you.”
“You’re not my father,” said Sam, raising his hands as fists, pushing at Dad’s chest. “You’re not any kind of a father.”
Then he felt it, the snap of Dad’s hands in the air, the back of one meeting his face. And the other pushing him to face the pole. Sam gripped at it, sucking at the inside of his cheek where he could taste blood. Dad was so, so mad, and Sam heard the belt come off. Knew he was going to get another whipping, and he couldn’t make himself care. Today a beating, tomorrow, more running and guns, what did it matter?
Then Dad’s mouth at his ear, putting Sam completely in darkness now, the rough push of Dad’s hand in the small of his back. Sam held as still as he could.
“It doesn’t matter to you that I’m training you to be safe. It doesn’t matter that I spent my evening, looking for you. You’re only worried about your brother? Well, you think about that.”
Then Dad stepped back, and in the darkness of the deserted fruit stand, the whipping began. It was worse in the dark, he couldn’t see beyond the pole, but could see the arc of the loop of the belt, suddenly clearly, as a shadow on the far wall. In the closed in space, there was nowhere for the echo of the blow to go but back into his skin. And the leather, slicing at his skin, like an electric rod, opening welts. A gust of air, as the cloth of his shorts split. Fire, pressing him hard against the pole. Each blow, going down to his bones, and then shooting up again. Sam pressed his teeth against the back of his hand. Shook.
After ten blows, the beating stopped. For the moment. Sam could tell that Dad was far from done.
“Your brother is frantic with worry. He threw the keys at me, and wanted to come. I made him stay at the cabin, in case you came back.” There was a pause. Sam could hear Dad running the belt through his hands. “Which you didn’t. Of course not. Sam only cares about himself. What Sam wants.”
“Th-that’s not true,” said Sam, trying not to whisper. Dad hated it when he whispered when he was scared. “I just don’t want to t-train anymore.”
“Oh, so now it’s what you don’t want, Sam?”
Sam let his forehead fall against the pole. He was so tired, and couldn’t figure out what Dad wanted him to say. Because he was on the verge of saying it, whatever it was.
“You don’t want to try your hardest, you don’t want white in your egg, you don’t want to be honest and admit when you’ve made a mistake—all these things you don’t want and the world is just supposed to bend to your whims? It doesn’t work that way.”
Then he heard Dad lift the belt, and fold it over. Heard the leather cut through the air and braced himself. Hissed as it landed across his hips, tasted his own sweat as it raced down the side of his face and into this mouth. Dad made one sound of effort, and Sam knew, he just knew, even without looking, that Dad was clocking his arm all the way back. He was furious, and the belt told him this, curling around the outside of his right thigh, leaving a sting on his bare skin like a snake’s bite.
At fifteen blows, he was sobbing into his arm, open mouthed, feeling the sting of leather that seemed to be shredding the skin from his legs and backside. He could hear his howls bouncing off the ceiling, and the sharp smell of his own sweat, pouring down his neck. Then the beating really began, each blow coming down hard, the pain winding through him like a dark coil, coming up again, spreading out through his skin.
His arms wrapped themselves tightly around the pole and he held onto it. Tried to keep breathing through the blows. Counted them. Got up to twenty-five before the air around him started to go white, and he felt himself slipping to the ground. He wrapped his arms around his knees and realized he was crying. And couldn’t stop it either, not even as Dad crouched down beside him, his shoulders and head just humps in the dark.
“Are we done here?” asked Dad. Voice like iron.
“T-tell Dean I’m s-sorry,” said Sam, managing only that as his shoulders shook and his lungs struggled for air.
“That you’re sorry?”
“The crossbow,” said Sam. “He l-liked the crossbow, and I b-broke it.”
“Get in the car.” Dad stood up. Sam could hear him put his belt back on and fasten it. “Get in the car now, or I’ll pick you up and carry you there.”
Dad was still mad.
Sam unfolded his arms and tried to uncurl himself, but his wrists felt like they were going to snap underneath his weight. He tried leaning to the side, using the pole for leverage, but that didn’t work either. Rough hands pulled him to his feet, and Sam swayed there, thinking about walking, feeling the heat marching up and down his backside. Struggled with the swimming in his head, the white air that seemed to descend from the ceiling. With a hand on his neck, Dad walked him to the car, and Sam managed to stay upright until Dad opened the passenger door. Then Sam tumbled in, felt Dad lift his feet and place them inside the car. The door was shut behind him.
Then Dad was getting in the car, pushing Sam’s head out of the way, but not making him sit up. There was a breeze, and Sam realized the windows were all rolled down. Dad didn’t turn on the engine. He just put the keys in the ignition and sat there. Breathing. Sam could feel Dad’s thigh brushing the top of his head. Then he heard Dad sigh.
“Sit up, Sam.”
Sam shook his head. “It hurts to sit up.” His face was sticking to the vinyl of the seat. He felt the tips of Dad’s fingers stir in his hair. Then the fingers went away.
“Sit up anyway.”
With one hand cupped under his shoulders, Dad’s hand helped Sam sit up, and the backs of his thighs immediately began to sting. But there was nothing he could do to stop it, curled against the passenger side door, feeling the breeze across his face, drying his tears as they fell new down his face. Sam looked out over the hood of the car, dotted with lights from the stars.
“You lied to me, Sam,” began Dad. “You screwed up and then you lied about it. Then, when you got found out, you pitched a fit like a two year old. And then you ran away. When what you should have done was—”
“Be like Dean.” The words stuck in his throat, lodged there along with the acid shooting up from his stomach.
Dad made a sharp sound, something like a bark of laughter, or a grunt of surprise. Sam wasn’t sure. Nerves racing, Sam pushed his hair out of his eyes. Didn’t look over.
“Yes, be like Dean. In that, when Dean screws up, he steps up and owns that. He doesn’t run away.”
Sam knew that this was true. But it was also true that Dean loved to train. Loved it so much that he was pissed when he couldn’t do it. All of this could go without saying; Sam knew very well the merits of his older brother and how much that counted with Dad. A million times a million points. Something Sam could never achieve. He shifted his thighs, to ease the burn, but they were stuck to the vinyl too now. It was going to hurt when he got out of the car.
“You don’t even try, Sam. And it’s not going to help. I’m not going to stop pushing you. So you can either stop resisting, and take your face out of the dirt and try, or you’ll just get scraped up. It’s up to you.”
Sam swallowed. “I hate training.”
“And that’s just too damn bad.”
It sounded so final, subject closed, that Sam crumpled forward and buried his face in his elbow. Crying harder now, though he knew it would piss Dad off. Thought about Dean, worried, the ruins of the crossbow spread at his feet. Felt the pain in his chest, couldn’t catch his breath.
Hands were on him, pushing him to lean his head against the seat. Rough hands, but not hurting.
“That’s enough, Sam. You’re done now.”
Sam took at deep breath. His face felt hot. His mouth was dry, and he wanted a glass of water very badly.
Then Dad leaned forward and started the engine, turned on the headlights, and now Sam could look over. In the glow of the dashboard, a little starry from the tears clumping his lashes, Dad’s mouth was downturned, and he didn’t look at Sam as he looped his arm over the back of the seat to check for clearance. He spun the wheel with one hand, and Sam winced as the tires went over a bump. Then Dad turned the wheel the other way and they were on the road, headed back up the mountain. Sam wondered what time it was. But he didn’t ask.
After about a mile, he felt Dad turn to look at him as he drove. Sam kept his eyes out the window.
“Did you run all the way down the mountain?”
Sam shrugged. “Most of it.”
“You’re feet are going to feel like crap in the morning,” said Dad. “Those shoes weren’t made for running on blacktop.”
Sam considered his toes. Yeah, they felt hot and hard. Wouldn’t matter, because in the morning there would be more running and jumping and leaping. Guns. Heat. Sweat. He dipped his head to hide his scowl. Dad controlled the whole summer, if not the rest of his life, and there was no way around it. Not till he turned eighteen.
Dad didn’t say anything else all the way back to the cabin. There was no porch light, but the lights inside were on. Dad parked the car, and motioned for Sam to get out. Sam knew it was going to hurt like hell when he pulled his broken skin away from the seat. He couldn’t make himself do it, and jerked back when Dad walked around and flung open the passenger side door. He opened his mouth to explain, but Dad just grabbed him by the arm, and yanked. Sam yelped, almost falling over as his feet hit the ground. Still keeping hold of him, Dad marched up the stairs and into the house.
Where Dean was waiting, sitting on the couch, all traces of the broken cross bow gone.
Dean stood up, white, mouth open. “Jesus, Dad—”
“Go to bed, Dean,” said Dad. Not letting go of Sam. “I’ll take care of it.”
It meaning him. Sam scowled. Watched as Dean did as he was told without even a backwards glance at his brother. Dad walked him over to the sink. Got out a glass and turned on the tap. He filled the glass and finally letting go of Sam, handed it to him.
Sam took it in both hands, downing the entire thing in one gulp. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, feeling the water rush through his system. Then he looked up at Dad.
“We’re done here, Sam,” said Dad, his eyes dark. Face half in shadow. “I’m not going to let you not train, and that’s it.”
Dad stared down at him as if he expected something from Sam, like an apology or an explanation. But Sam couldn’t give it. He was only sorry about the cross bow and nothing else. Mostly.
“Turn around,” said Dad, motioning with his hand.
Sam turned around, hanging his head. He knew his shorts were ripped, and wondered how bad the back of his legs looked. Wondered if Dad was going to use iodine.
“If you weren’t so goddamn stubborn—” said Dad, his breath hitching.
“If you weren’t,” said Sam, muttering.
Not quietly enough, apparently.
“What did you just say?”
Dad grabbed his shoulder and whirled him back around. Sam knew his most mulish scowl was in place, but he couldn’t help it. He would train, but he didn’t have to like it. Wouldn’t be like Dean, yes sirring all over the place.
“I asked you what you just said, Sam, and I suggest you answer me.”
“I said if you weren’t,” said Sam, with force.
Dad’s hands turned into fists, and Sam flinched, his whole body jerking back. He couldn’t help it, couldn’t stand his ground, not when Dad looked like that, like he wanted to tear something apart and send it twitching to the ground. In pieces.
Then Dad ran his hand over his face, shoving his other hand in his pocket. Deep, still in a fist. He seemed to shiver then and then looked at Sam with still, dark eyes.
“You get cleaned up,” he said, finally, his voice full of gravel. “And get to bed, you hear me?”
Without saying anything, Sam went into the bathroom, which was just off of the living room, and closed the door behind him. Without turning on the light, he pressed his face into his hands and leaned into the corner by the doorjamb. And shook, breathing in his own sweat, biting back the shout that wanted to make itself heard, to say exactly what he wanted to say. The part of him that wanted to go right back out to Dad and say it: This is bullshit. But as always, he didn’t dare, and tried to breathe slowly and dull the sharp beats of his heart against his breastbone.
There was a knock at the door. “Turn on the light, Sam.”
He did this, the ends of his fingers numb, the lids of his eyes screwing down tightly at the naked bulb over the sink. Knowing that Dad could see the light, now, from under the door. That he was standing by, even now, to make sure that his orders were carried out. Sam made himself go to the sink, and took off his shirt and ran the water. He was very tempted to just make splashing sounds and walk out with his chin held high, but the chances of Dad figuring it out, and the wrath that would follow were too much to contemplate. So he ran his head under the tap and washed his arms and chest, and finally, took off his shoes and ripped shorts and underwear. And turned to look.
The backs of his legs were puffy and purple, with darker lines where the belt had caught sideways. Where the blood had dried and then stuck his skin to the vinyl seats of the Impala. He touched the back of his right thigh with his fingers; but the skin was deadened and hard. He was going to be walking on what felt like stiff planks for days. Not that that would stop the daily run and the rest of it.
Clenching his teeth, he grabbed a washcloth that hadn’t been used too often from the towel rack and ran it under cold water. He bent over and scrubbed his ankles and legs and then his knees, and running the washrag under cold water again, folded it and placed it, with ginger care, on the back of one leg. He didn’t rub, like Dad would’ve, he barely patted. Then he did the same with the other leg. Gently. Almost not at all, touching the washcloth to the welts, and then hissing and drawing it away.
“Everything okay in there?” This was accompanied by another knock at the door and Sam realized that Dad was standing just outside, and probably hadn’t moved away the entire time.
Sam just stared at the door. When he didn’t say anything, Dad said, “Sam?”
Sam swallowed. And made himself answer. “Yeah.”
He had another pass at the back of his legs and at the scrape he found along his upper arm. And the scratches from the wooden pole on the inside of his forearms. There was almost no point. And he was suddenly, so very, very tired.
He flopped the washcloth over the towel rack and put his clothes back on. This hurt, the elastic going over the welts like Velcro, and the heat of the cotton almost too much. Picking up his shoes in one hand, he turned off the light and opened the door. To face his father, waiting, dark eyed and still. That mouth turned down in that frown, the way it did when he was angry. Or worried. Or any other time things weren’t going the way he wanted them too.
“Get to bed. Now.”
Without another word, Sam turned and walked away. He opened the bedroom door as quietly as he could, and stood there. It was late and it was dark. Sam ached from head to foot, his backside still ablaze. He put down his sneakers, feeling the grit that fell from them under his bare toes. The only thing that kept the room from being a sauna was the cross breeze through the windows. He climbed into bed over the railing, not wanting to disturb Dean, who would want to be fresh in the morning for whatever training Dad would give him. Would have wanted to be fresh for the long promised crossbow training, only now there wasn’t going to be any. It would be a week, maybe more, till Dad could arrange for another one. Sam dipped his head, tried to find the pillow without making any noise, when Dean shifted in the bed next to him.
“Sam,” said Dean, his voice thick.
“Dean,” said Sam, “’m sorry, I—”
“Shut up,” said Dean.
Sam clamped his mouth shut.
Dean lay there for a minute and then shoved himself out of bed and left the room. Sam lay down, facing the wall, and tried not to cry. As much as he wished otherwise, he was stuck being a Winchester, and now Dean was mad at him as well. Not that Sam blamed him. Dean had been looking forward to using that cross bow and as Dad had so sharply pointed out, Sam’s tantrum meant that now Dean would suffer as well. His fault. He was to blame. Like he was for everything.
Shrugging himself down into the pillow, he closed his eyes, and tried to make his breathing even. His pillow was already soaked, his skin under his eyes itched, his neck was sticky, his feet were pounding. Nighttime runs were not his thing, especially not five mile ones. He’d pay in the morning, Dad had said. Well, he was paying now.
He heard the sound of the door shutting behind him. Dean’s feet as he padded over to the bed, a little shuffle as he kept most of his weight on his right leg. And then the dip of the bed as Dean got into it. Sam resolved to be as still as he could, to take up as little room as he could, when he felt something against his arm. Turning to look, in the near darkness, he could see that Dean was leaning over him. Was holding something in his hand.
“Here, take it.”
Without asking what it was, Sam took it, his fingers twining with Dean’s as he did so. Feeling the warmth of Dean’s hand, and the warmth that had left on what turned out to be a spoon.
“Don’t let it swirl off now.”
Dean lay back down as Sam stuck the end in his mouth. It was honey. A big spoonful of honey, spun round and round and carried to him by Dean’s hand. It was a gift. Sweet on his tongue, and a bit of acid, raw honey, heating in his mouth, melting away, slipping down his throat. He sucked on the spoon till it was all gone, feeling the hot tears slip sideways down his face and into his ear. The honey eased the sting of his skin, but not in his heart. It was still going to be a long summer.